DOD tech pushed for first responders

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) included an amendment in this year's Defense authorization bill that would enable the nation's firefighters and other emergency response personnel to use DOD-developed technologies to help them do their jobs better and safer.

Speaking May 22 at the International Quality and Productivity Center's Network Centric Warfare 2002 conference in Arlington, Va., Weldon said he didn't see why a firefighter shouldn't have access to the same thermal imaging unit or other tools that soldiers in the battlefield use if civilian agencies could use them to save lives.

"Why is the life of a firefighter less important than the life of a soldier?" Weldon asked.

To help put appropriate military-driven technologies in the hands of civilian personnel who need them, Weldon said he would like to establish a National Technology Transfer Center. (The center would be different than the organization of the same name that is designed to help government contractors transfer their technology into the commercial market.)

The amendment calls for DOD to find "an independent, nonprofit, technology-oriented entity that has demonstrated the ability to facilitate the transfer of defense technologies, developed by both the private and public sectors, to aid federal, state and local first responders."

Specifically, it calls for DOD to establish an outreach program in coordination with the Interagency Board for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability and first responders to develop an awareness of available technology and equipment to support crisis response.

"The idea is to take cutting-edge military technology and transfer it to the civilian community," Weldon told Federal Computer Week, adding that the focus will be on firefighters, emergency medical workers and other first responders because DOD has already begun sharing with the law enforcement community.

Weldon said he would like to see the center serve as a "central operations center" and run by a nonprofit organization. He intends to meet next week with representatives of one such organization, Battelle, to discuss the project.

The amendment calls for the secretary of Defense to enter into an agreement with a technology partner by Jan. 15, 2003, and to submit a report on the actions taken and strategic plan developed to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees by March 15, 2003.

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